We invite submissions for a one-day interdisciplinary symposium to take place at Brown University on February 21, 2014, hosted by the Cogut Center for the Humanities and sponsored by the Department of French Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Medieval Studies Program, and the Department of History. Our theme will be "Prisons of Stone, Word, and Flesh: Medieval and Early Modern Captivity." Professor Adam Kosto (History, Columbia University), author of Hostages in the Middle Ages(Oxford University Press, 2012), will serve as the keynote speaker.
If, following the thought of Michel Foucault and others, the prison is an essentially modern invention, how can we best conceptualize captivity in the time beforehand? Historical records of the medieval and early modern period (roughly 400-1800 AD) offer countless examples of human bondage, including the capture and detention of prisoners of war and the voluntary submission of hostages, as well as evolving forms of punitive incarceration. During the same time, art and literature are replete with depictions of imprisonment, often employed as a master metaphor for concepts like erotic love or mankind's enslavement to the Devil and the body. Being held against their will even seems to have been something of a rite of passage for numerous medieval and early modern authors (such as Marco Polo, François Villon, Charles d'Orléans, Thomas Malory, and Cervantes) who found in various forms of captivity the time and inspiration necessary to create some of the most enduring works of western literature.
Submissions are sought from graduate students, faculty members, and other scholars in fields including—but not limited to—history, literature, languages, philosophy, religious studies, art and architectural history, and music. Particularly welcome are submissions which offer new methodological or theoretical approaches to issues of medieval and early modern captivity, or which examine the relationship of captivity to cultural production and/or intercultural exchange. Papers should be no more than twenty minutes in length and should be in English. Please send a 250-word abstract, along with brief contact information, to John Moreau, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in French Studies and Comparative Literature, at John_Moreau@Brown.edu. The submission deadline is November 1, 2013.